An Extra Credit Question

 

Years ago, I was beginning as a student teacher in a middle school in Westchester County, New York. It was exam week for the kids, and since I was new in town, I was given the task of coming up with an extra credit question for the 8th grade American History class. It was about 11:30 a.m, almost lunchtime.

I came up with this: “Who is Christa McAuliffe?”

Not that far away, in the skies east of the Florida peninsula, the following conversation between Dick Scobee (CDR) and Michael Smith (PLT) was heard by Mission Control and the rest of the Challenger crew:

T+58…………..PLT….. Throttle up.

T+59…………..CDR….. Roger.

T+60…………..PLT….. Feel that mother go.

T+60………… Woooohoooo.

T+1:02…………PLT….. Thirty-five thousand going through one point five

(NASA: Altitude and velocity report, 35,000 ft., 1.5 Mach).

T+1:05…………CDR….. Reading four eighty six on mine.

(NASA: Routine airspeed indicator check.)

T+1:07…………PLT….. Yep, that’s what I’ve got, too.

T+1:10…………CDR….. Roger, go at throttle up.

(NASA: SSME at 104 percent.)

T+1:13…………PLT….. Uhoh.

T+1:13…………………..LOSS OF ALL DATA.

The State of the Union speech was postponed. President Reagan addressed the nation:

I wonder if today’s average eighth-grader could answer that extra credit question.

There are 58 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor: I wonder if today’s average eighth-grader could answer that extra credit question.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Without looking it up, can you name any of the other astronauts from STS-51-L?

    Can you name any of the astronauts from STS-107?

    Heck, can you name any of the astronauts from STS-1? How about STS-135?

    What makes Christa McAuliffe so special?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    • #1
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:08 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Miffed White Male Member

    I can name all 7 of the astronauts from 51L.

    I can name one from 107.

    I can name both from STS1.

    I can also name all three from Apollo 1.

    And the Mercury 7.

    Aside: What is it about the last week in January and first week in February that’s so deadly for NASA?

     

     

    • #2
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:22 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  3. Miffed White Male Member

    I’ve always wondered what it was that Smith saw that made him say “uh oh”.

     

    • #3
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:23 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. ctlaw Coolidge

    Who was Gus Grissom?

    • #4
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:24 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Mate De Inactive

    I don’t think anyone under the age of 40 would likely know who Christa McAuliffe is. Mainly because it was such a hyped up moment to have a teacher go into space. Also I think 90% of classrooms were watching the challenger launch. It was pretty traumatizing as an elementary school student sitting there super excited to see the launch and all the teachers excited as well then to watch the shuttle blow to bits a few minutes after launch. I remember the teachers wheeling the TV out of the room and we said a prayer (catholic school). But everyone was in shock. You don’t forget that. But kids now have no idea.

    • #5
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:25 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  6. Barfly Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor:

    I wonder if today’s average eighth-grader could answer that extra credit question.

    Well, average student? No. But if the sample were limited to intelligent children from good families then I’d bet on “Yes.”

    I don’t have any specific insight into this specific question, whether McAuliffe is remembered. But I consider that she was a complete luxury, a supernumerary on that flight. She was a middle school history teacher, IIRC. Superficially, at least, she was a poor one – I recall some newsy bit about the irrelevant (my judgement, not theirs) content of her pedagogy.

    So she seems like a perfect totem for the left. Yes, I bet today’s front row kids would do better on your question than you might expect.

    • #6
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:32 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. ctlaw Coolidge

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    9thDistrictNeighbor: I wonder if today’s average eighth-grader could answer that extra credit question.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Without looking it up, can you name any of the other astronauts from STS-51-L?

    Ellison Onozuka, Ron McNair, and Judy Resnik

    Can you name any of the astronauts from STS-107?

    Ilan Ramon

    Heck, can you name any of the astronauts from STS-1?

    John Young and Bob Crippen

    How about STS-135?

    No idea

    What makes Christa McAuliffe so special?

    She was cargo.

     

    • #7
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:34 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  8. Seawriter Member

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    9thDistrictNeighbor: I wonder if today’s average eighth-grader could answer that extra credit question.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Without looking it up, can you name any of the other astronauts from STS-51-L?

    Can you name any of the astronauts from STS-107?

    Heck, can you name any of the astronauts from STS-1? How about STS-135?

    What makes Christa McAuliffe so special?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    Yes. To the first three questions. Hell, I can name every crew member in 51-L (no STS, except retroactively) and STS-107. Of course I was there through most of the Shuttle program. And had just moved back from Palestine, TX (where bits of STS-107 landed) to rejoin the Shuttle program eight months before STS-107. I worked with or for many astronauts that flew on the Shuttle. A few were even friends. (Not many, though. Different circles.)

    As to what made McAuliffe so special? In truth it was that she wasn’t. She was just an ordinary American, and was supposed to prove space wasn’t just for demigods and demigoddesses.

    • #8
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:34 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  9. Miffed White Male Member

    Not to change the subject too much, but my 6th grader just finished a group reading project at school where they read a book titled “Bomb: The race to build — and steal – the world’s most dangerous weapon” about the Manhattan project and the Russian attempts to infiltrate.

    My kid was pretty disgusted because none of the kids in his group knew a thing about WWII. They hadn’t even heard of Normandy, and pretty much (according to him) didn’y know who was on which side.

     

    • #9
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:35 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  10. Barfly Member

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    9thDistrictNeighbor: I wonder if today’s average eighth-grader could answer that extra credit question.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Without looking it up, can you name any of the other astronauts from STS-51-L?

    Can you name any of the astronauts from STS-107?

    Heck, can you name any of the astronauts from STS-1? How about STS-135?

    What makes Christa McAuliffe so special?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    • #10
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:37 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. OkieSailor Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Not to change the subject too much, but my 6th grader just finished a group reading project at school where they read a book titled “Bomb: The race to build — and steal – the world’s most dangerous weapon” about the Manhattan project and the Russian attempts to infiltrate.

    My kid was pretty disgusted because none of the kids in his group knew a thing about WWII. They hadn’t even heard of Normandy, and pretty much (according to him) didn’y know who was on which side.

     

    I’m not at all sure 6th graders need to know those things, but I’m quite sure 12th graders should know all of them, and a lot more besides.

    • #11
    • January 28, 2019, at 1:40 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. dnewlander Member

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    9thDistrictNeighbor: I wonder if today’s average eighth-grader could answer that extra credit question.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Without looking it up, can you name any of the other astronauts from STS-51-L?

    Can you name any of the astronauts from STS-107?

    Heck, can you name any of the astronauts from STS-1? How about STS-135?

    What makes Christa McAuliffe so special?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    Judith Resnik.

    She went to CMU.

    There’s a small memorial to her near the Engineering buildings.

    • #12
    • January 28, 2019, at 2:05 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. dnewlander Member

    This is kind of a non-sequitur, but here goes…

    In the weeks leading up to the launch, and, of course, in the months afterwards, I was always terribly annoyed by the way the media kept referring to her as “the first citizen to go to space”. Of course, they meant “civilian”, but didn’t know how to say it. Which really bothered me.

    And, of course, even that was wrong.

    Harrison Schmidt, former US Senator from New Mexico, was the first civilian the US sent to space, and obviously the only civilian (and last man) to set foot of the Moon.

    • #13
    • January 28, 2019, at 2:12 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  14. Seawriter Member

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    This is kind of a non-sequitur, but here goes…

    In the weeks leading up to the launch, and, of course, in the months afterwards, I was always terribly annoyed by the way the media kept referring to her as “the first citizen to go to space”. Of course, they meant “civilian”, but didn’t know how to say it. Which really bothered me.

    And, of course, even that was wrong.

    Harrison Schmidt, former US Senator from New Mexico, was the first civilian the US sent to space, and obviously the only civilian (and last man) to set foot of the Moon.

    What they meant was first non-NASA, non-military, non-foreign individual to travel into space aboard a US spacecraft. Harrison was a NASA astronaut. Even there, she wasn’t. That was Charles Walker, who flew aboard 41-D.

    What they really meant was she was the first ordinary American to fly in space. She was that. Believe me, a lot of NASA astronauts disliked that, and most were glad, when NASA stopped flying “ordinary” people in space after 51-L.

    • #14
    • January 28, 2019, at 2:21 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Miffed White Male Member

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    9thDistrictNeighbor: I wonder if today’s average eighth-grader could answer that extra credit question.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Without looking it up, can you name any of the other astronauts from STS-51-L?

    Can you name any of the astronauts from STS-107?

    Heck, can you name any of the astronauts from STS-1? How about STS-135?

    What makes Christa McAuliffe so special?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    Judith Resnik.

    She went to CMU.

    There’s a small memorial to her near the Engineering buildings.

    I’ve been to four of the graves from Challenger.

    Smith and Scobee are buried at Arlington.

    Onizuka is in Punchbowl, right near Ernie Pyle.

    McAuliffe is in Concord New Hampshire.

     

    BTW, just saw an article on CNN yesterday, Scobee’s son is a three star Air Force general, in charge of the Air Force Reserve.

    • #15
    • January 28, 2019, at 2:22 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  16. dnewlander Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    This is kind of a non-sequitur, but here goes…

    In the weeks leading up to the launch, and, of course, in the months afterwards, I was always terribly annoyed by the way the media kept referring to her as “the first citizen to go to space”. Of course, they meant “civilian”, but didn’t know how to say it. Which really bothered me.

    And, of course, even that was wrong.

    Harrison Schmidt, former US Senator from New Mexico, was the first civilian the US sent to space, and obviously the only civilian (and last man) to set foot of the Moon.

    What they meant was first non-NASA, non-military, non-foreign individual to travel into space aboard a US spacecraft. Harrison was a NASA astronaut. Even there, she wasn’t. That was Charles Walker, who flew aboard 41-D.

    What they really meant was she was the first ordinary American to fly in space. She was that. Believe me, a lot of NASA astronauts disliked that, and most were glad, when NASA stopped flying “ordinary” people in space after 51-L.

    Yeah, I get it, but how hard would it have been to actually use the one word they were trying to convey? None hard, and that’s my point.

    • #16
    • January 28, 2019, at 2:26 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Seawriter Member

    dnewlander (View Comment):
    Yeah, I get it, but how hard would it have been to actually use the one word they were trying to convey? None hard, and that’s my point.

    Dude – you’re dealing with journalists. You know, folks who could not cut it academically majoring in education.

    • #17
    • January 28, 2019, at 2:44 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  18. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    This is kind of a non-sequitur, but here goes…

    In the weeks leading up to the launch, and, of course, in the months afterwards, I was always terribly annoyed by the way the media kept referring to her as “the first citizen to go to space”. Of course, they meant “civilian”, but didn’t know how to say it. Which really bothered me.

    And, of course, even that was wrong.

    Harrison Schmidt, former US Senator from New Mexico, was the first civilian the US sent to space, and obviously the only civilian (and last man) to set foot of the Moon.

    What they meant was first non-NASA, non-military, non-foreign individual to travel into space aboard a US spacecraft. Harrison was a NASA astronaut. Even there, she wasn’t. That was Charles Walker, who flew aboard 41-D.

    What they really meant was she was the first ordinary American to fly in space. She was that. Believe me, a lot of NASA astronauts disliked that, and most were glad, when NASA stopped flying “ordinary” people in space after 51-L.

    Yeah, I get it, but how hard would it have been to actually use the one word they were trying to convey? None hard, and that’s my point.

    They couldn’t call her “ordinary” as that would imply that NASA could have chosen pretty much any American at random to take her seat.

    How about “first civilian American without a science degree”?

    • #18
    • January 28, 2019, at 2:48 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor Post author

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    As to what made McAuliffe so special? In truth it was that she wasn’t. She was just an ordinary American, and was supposed to prove space wasn’t just for demigods and demigoddesses.

    Elon Musk and Buzz Aldrin aside, space tourism is going nowhere fast.

     

     

    • #19
    • January 28, 2019, at 2:50 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. Stad Thatcher

    9thDistrictNeighbor: I wonder if today’s average eighth-grader could answer that extra credit question.

    If they could, I dare say they would insist Christa McAuliffe got her assignment based on white privilege.

    God bless the Challenger Seven . . .

    • #20
    • January 28, 2019, at 2:51 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  21. Seawriter Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    Elon Musk and Buzz Aldrin aside, space tourism is going nowhere fast.

    This wasn’t about space tourism. It was about reducing space to a non-mythic activity. If space plumbers have to PhDs, guess what? Space is going to be going nowhere fast, either. It pretty much is, anyway, in large part because the astronauts have built up a mythos about space taking supermen and superwomen.

    • #21
    • January 28, 2019, at 3:17 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. dnewlander Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    Elon Musk and Buzz Aldrin aside, space tourism is going nowhere fast.

    This wasn’t about space tourism. It was about reducing space to a non-mythic activity. If space plumbers have to PhDs, guess what? Space is going to be going nowhere fast, either. It pretty much is, anyway, in large part because the astronauts have built up a mythos about space taking supermen and superwomen.

    Not sure that was the astronauts. I’ve seen The Right Stuff.

    (Filmed partly in Albuquerque, as Dr Lovelace actually was the one who did all the physicals on the astronauts in the 60s.)

    • #22
    • January 28, 2019, at 3:23 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Robert E. Lee Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    As to what made McAuliffe so special? In truth it was that she wasn’t. She was just an ordinary American, and was supposed to prove space wasn’t just for demigods and demigoddesses.

    And that is what made her special.

    • #23
    • January 28, 2019, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. Barfly Member

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):
    How about “first civilian American without a science degree”?

    How about “first passenger on an American space flight?”

    • #24
    • January 28, 2019, at 5:02 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Quietpi Member

    So… what were the results?

    • #25
    • January 28, 2019, at 5:09 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. Seawriter Member

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):
    How about “first civilian American without a science degree”?

    How about “first passenger on an American space flight?”

    That was “barfin'” Jake Garn. To commemorate his flight they named the space-sickness scale units of measure for him. At 20 Garn you have an “event.”

    • #26
    • January 28, 2019, at 6:14 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  27. Poindexter Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    I’ve always wondered what it was that Smith saw that made him say “uh oh”.

     

    Maybe it was a jolt rather than something he saw.

    • #27
    • January 28, 2019, at 8:49 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor Post author

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    So… what were the results?

    Oh, they all got it right. I never liked to give a question designed to stump them, but one designed to make them think. They had a lot to think about that afternoon.

    • #28
    • January 29, 2019, at 4:57 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. Bethany Mandel Editor

    I was born later in 1986, and I couldn’t. 

    • #29
    • January 29, 2019, at 6:01 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. Stad Thatcher

    Bethany Mandel (View Comment):

    I was born later in 1986, and I couldn’t.

    Thanks! Now I really feel old . . .

    • #30
    • January 29, 2019, at 6:11 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  1. 1
  2. 2